Usain Bolt: What’s going on there?

Usain Bolt: What’s going on there?

The big story over the A-League offseason has been Usain Bolt’s trial at the Central Coast Mariners. Last season’s bottom club have managed to somehow lure the Jamaican sprinter to Gosford, and are allegedly offering a contract. It’s a pretty hefty fee they’re paying, too, for someone who’s never played professional football. And at 32, it’s not like they’ll get much use out of him. To be fair, however, he has got huge marketing appeal. Really, the whole situation’s a mess.

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The first thing that needs to be established is that Bolt is a competent footballer. He’s trained with Borussia Dortmund, he’s trialled with Stromsgodset in Norway and there was an offer from Valletta FC, based in European footballing hotbed Malta. He scored two goals in a friendly match in preseason. To write him off as a poor footballer isn’t needed.

But what is he going to bring to the Mariners? Bolt’s played as a forward or winger in the friendly matches so far. Imagine if he’s given a contract and starts playing A-League football. How’s Connor Pain going to feel about that? What about Matt Simon? Or Tommy Oar? The three of them have a combined 31 years of professional footballing experience. Bolt has none.

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And just look at the contract offer. It’s enough for the A-League to need FFA to step in and fund it. It’s been rumoured at $3 million a year. That’s not a bad contract for the Premier League, and we’re meant to expect that giving this kind of money to a fairly unproven non-footballer makes sense? It doesn’t. Not at all. That’s a huge amount of their salary cap, gone.

Yes, Bolt will bring in crowds. And yes, people will buy merchandise. They’ll make some money out of it. But if we’re at a point where the finances are more important than on-field action, then I’m worried for the future of the A-League. The Mariners might be overlooking what gets people to go to the football. When I go to a Phoenix game, I’m not going because I wanna see this player or that player. I go to see the team, my team, play a game of football.

There have been successful crossovers in sport before, I’m not going to deny that. There are players that excel at two similar sports – think Brad Thorn in both rugby union and rugby league, or Jarryd Hayne in just about everything. And there are players who play two very different sports – rugby and cricket have nothing to do with each other but Jeff Wilson still did well in both. Bolt’s effectively doing the second one of those two, and pretending it’s the first. Barack Obama’s apparently a pretty handy basketball player, but the Phoenix Suns aren’t trying to sign him up, no matter how desperate they may be.

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Ultimately, Bolt’s move to the Central Coast Mariners is a farce. It’s not going to be any good for the club, it makes the rest of the league look like a joke, it’s a kick in the teeth to all of the players who have worked for this – and, as Andy Keogh said, he’s got a first touch like a trampoline.

A look at the eight A-League expansion bids

A look at the eight A-League expansion bids

The 2018-19 A-League, the top-flight of football in Australia, kicks off in just eight days’ time when Sydney FC travel to Adelaide United. Over the course of the next seven months, the next 140 games, we’ll see a new premier and a new champion crowned. What we won’t see after this season, however, is the current format. The A-League has had ten teams exactly since 2011, but that’s all about to change with two new sides joining the competition in 2019-20. Exactly who those teams will be is currently unclear, and there are eight competing bids. Let’s take a look.


The first bid to look at, and the most well-documented, is Canberra.

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Australia’s capital city already has a W-League side, Canberra United, however it’s understood that this bid would be separate. The bid, led by Michael Caggiano of ONTHEGO, would see a new stadium built in the city for use by the football team, rugby side the Brumbies and league team the Raiders. The bid has also been negotiating with a Champions League side with a view towards a partnership agreement, similar to the link between Manchester City, Melbourne City and New York City in the MLS. The bid is considerably better publicised than any others, and should be a frontrunner for the spot.

Another bid comes from Ipswich, just west of Brisbane. Ipswich has seen a large population increase as people move away from the crowded centre of Brisbane and out into more suburban areas. Like Canberra, Ipswich want to build a new stadium, with the preferred location being at the North Ipswich Reserve and the capacity aiming for 15,000. Expansion into Queensland hasn’t gone brilliantly well for the A-League, with two of the three defunct clubs being from the state, but there’s no reason to think that trend will continue.

There’s also interest from an existing football team, Wollongong Wolves, to join the A-League.

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The Wollongong Wolves, from Wollongong in the Illawarra area, were part of the National Soccer League, the top-flight in Australia before the A-League, and managed to win it twice as well as taking an OFC Champions League title. They’ve fallen into relative obscurity since then, but there’s good reason for them to join the A-League. 8,000 people showed up for a home cup game against Sydney FC, which is higher than two A-League sides’ average attendance last season. And the Wollongong area has some of the highest youth football participation rates in the country, only increasing the bid’s chance of success.


OK, now it gets boring, because we’re going into the big cities. Let’s start with the two Sydney bids.

Yep, two bids. Because apparently having one-fifth of the teams in one city isn’t enough. Anyway, one bid is coming in from southern Sydney whilst the other is southwest Sydney or neighbouring Macarthur. Details are a little scarce on these bids, but Southern Sydney would most likely play out of St George. Given that there are already two other teams in the city, and most likely very few football fans willing to swap allegiances, I don’t think either of these bids are likely to be picked.

There’s three more bids left, all based in Melbourne.

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South Melbourne FC, the most successful team in Australian history (alongside three others), want to join the A-League. The side, formerly managed by Ferenc Puskas, have four Australian championships and an OFC Champions League win. They also have five million dollars and a 12,000 capacity stadium, which might prove useful. They’re also interested in entering a W-League team, and would be a popular choice with many Melbourne residents not wanting to have to choose between Victory or City. It remains to be seen if they’d be popular with anyone else, though.

The other two sides are… also Melbourne. One bid is from the south-east of the city, with the intention of building a 10,000 capacity stadium (at least). The region has 1.7 million people, and high participation rates in the sport. Six local sides are looking to unify for the bid to come together. The other bid is from West Melbourne, and there are barely any details about it out there.


So there they are, the eight bids to join the A-League. In my opinion, the two best bids are Canberra and Wollongong Wolves, however I am not a businessperson, or a CEO, or any other sort of decision-maker. I’m just a fan with 0.000002 bitcoin who wants to get his opinions out there. In any case, we won’t know the decision until its release, which should be before the end of the month.

So that’s that. Which bids would you like to be accepted? Tell us!

What happened to star defenders?

What happened to star defenders?

Tuesday this week was the birthday of one of the greatest footballers of all time, in my opinion: Franz Beckenbauer. The German played nineteen years of football for Bayern Munich, Hamburg and the New York Cosmos, as well as making over one hundred appearances for West Germany. He won nineteen trophies as a player, including the World Cup, the Euros and three European Cups. Oh, and he managed a Ballon d’Or or two. Beckenbauer was a star.

And yet he wasn’t banging in the goals like those we admire today. He wasn’t playing in the forwards or setting up chances, and he only broke the ten-goal barrier once, back when he was in the second tier as a youngster. No, Beckenbauer was at the other end, getting tackles in from anywhere and everywhere, marshalling the defence and looking to get the ball up the other end. He was one of the first, if not the very first sweeper in top-level football. He was immensely popular, and it’s not like his talent wasn’t recognised – after all, he won two Ballons d’Or. But what about those players now?

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It’s not like we’ve got a shortage of talented defenders. Ramos, Varane, Pique, Boateng, Hummels, Kompany, Azpilicueta, Chiellini and that’s just centre-backs. Wider out there’s Alba, Alaba, Kimmich, Carvajal, Marcelo, Danilo, and the greatest player of all time, Seamus Coleman. And yet despite this talent, players who have been doing this for years on end, we’ve decided to focus almost exclusively on forwards.

Just look at the shortlists for the FIFA awards. Last year, twenty-four players were shortlisted for the Best Men’s Player – four were defenders. In 2016, there was just one on the list, and this year, there was also only one (out of ten this time). No defender had been in the final three for the award since 2006 when Fabio Cannavaro won in 2006, and that victory wasn’t as clear-cut as others from its time period.

In part this doesn’t surprise me – after all, would you rather watch Messi or Cristiano score goals and terrorise defences, or Ramos or Pique trying to organise a defence and clear the ball away? There’s a reason FIFA have the Puskas Award for best goal and not one for best tackle or block. But it isn’t something that’s going away soon.

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Take the World Team of the 20th century, for example. The front six is about what you’d expect, with the slots going to Pele and Garrincha, plus Maradona, di Stefano, Cruyff and Platini. But it’s in defence where the names become less recognisable – Nilton Santos, anyone? Beckenbauer joins Moore, Nilton and Carlos Alberto in a sturdy defence.

But it’s clear to see the gap in recognition between the two groups. For Nilton and Carlos Alberto, these are their only individual awards (alongside the FIFA 100, Pele’s list of people he likes). Beckenbauer of course has two Ballons ‘Or and three World Cup All-Star Team selections, and Moore has one selection to the same team. That’s ten awards across the defence, less than Pele by himself and as many as Diego Maradona. Neither of them were eligible for the Ballon d’Or but the awards have been retroactively reevaluated and alternate winners announced – Pele, Maradona and Garrincha get ten. Add on the seven extra from Cruyff, di Stefano and Platini and the massive gap starts to become evident.

What can be done to fix this, if it even requires fixing? I don’t know. People will always be drawn to the obvious flair, the talent that doesn’t require effort to spot. They’ll find more enjoyment in watching a Kevin de Bruyne scorcher rip into the corner than they will watching Mats Hummels get a toe in and knock the ball out for a corner. It’s unfortunate to see people choose Beckham over Beckenbauer or Socrates over Sokratis, but that’s football.

Image credit:https://www.google.co.nz/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjvt7-82bXdAhXSBIgKHRozBt0QjRx6BAgBEAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.footballtransfertavern.com%2Fpremier-league%2Fmanchester-united-boss-crazy-over-borussia-dortmund-defender%2F&psig=AOvVaw1elnPXa_GFf7w5FlRGewGx&ust=1536849702677431

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David Beckham’s Miami MLS team finally has a name

David Beckham’s Miami MLS team finally has a name

After years of wait, David Beckham has finally announced the name and logo of his MLS club. The Miami-based side will take the name Club Internacional de Futbol Miami, or Inter Miami for people who just can’t be bothered with all that nonsense.

We’re finally getting closer to the club’s launch after a saga lasting since 2013, and Inter Miami are poised to enter the league in 2020. By then, FC Cincinnati will already have been promoted from the United Soccer League, the second tier of football in the United States. Miami will join Major League Soccer alongside a team from Nashville, Tennessee, which is yet to be named.

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This is the proposed stadium for Overtown.

Beckham’s side are developing well, but there’s still progress to be made. Their stadium location is not yet finalised with Beckham wanting to build a 25,000-seater stadium on the waterfront. There are also proposals to build either near Miami International Airport or in Overtown, in the north of the city. Miami Fusion, who played in MLS from 1998 to 2001, had their home games at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, however this only seats 17,000. Of course there are other grounds available in the city, such as the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium, but two gridiron teams already play there.

The side had been called many names throughout the past few years. Beckham’s ownership group commonly referred to them as Miami Vice or Miami Current, and the project in general was known as Miami Beckham United. Inter Miami will not be the first side in MLS to use a Spanish-influenced name. That honour goes to Real Salt Lake from Utah and Chivas USA based in Los Angeles, who each joined the league in 2005, although Chivas no longer exists.

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Blue? They’re pink now!

The club’s colours will be black, white and pink, with a fairly similar shade of pink to Italian side Citta di Palermo. Beckham has said of the logo that he was inspired by typical South American club logos. Clearly they’ve paid attention to detail – the sun in the middle of the crest has seven rays, a homage to Beckham’s iconic No. 7 jersey.

When the club join the league in 2020, provided everything goes to plan, there will be 26 clubs in MLS from seventeen states plus D.C. and three provinces of Canada. Expansion is expected to continue further, with the league aiming to reach 28 teams eventually. These extra teams would likely be in Detroit, Sacramento or San Diego.

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An Open Letter to West Ham

An Open Letter to West Ham

Dear West Ham

 

As a West Ham fan, I am the most confused person alive right now. I didn’t think that it was possible to have a worse start than last year, but with three losses in as many games, we obviously have.

And it was looking so good. We had spent money in the transfer window for once, and we broke our transfer record twice with Issa Diop and Felipe Anderson. We got in a Premier League winning manager in Manuel Pellegrini and we had a good preseason. We were looking set for the new season.

And then we collapsed. Away to Liverpool was not going to be an easy start but the way that we collapsed under the slightest bit of pressure was a sight to behold. Next, Bournemouth. The cherries thoroughly outplayed us. The 2-1 scoreline was flattering, to say the least. And then yesterday, Arsenal. How badly can we get outplayed? They tore us a new one, outplaying us all over the pitch.

This is worrying. I know that with a new manager and a lot of new players things will take time to work out but it’s been three league games now plus preseason and if things don’t start improving soon, something has to change. Whether that be the manager or just the tactics I don’t know, but something will change. Something has to change.

 

Yours,

Zac

Image Credits:

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Zac’s Top Transfers 2018/19

Zac’s Top Transfers 2018/19

Well with most of the transfers this window already over I thought that I might as well rank my top five. Now let’s get into it. Short and snappy, I like it!

5. Jorginho to Chelsea
Maurizio Sarri is the new boss at Chelsea, which means that they will be playing Sarriball and Jorginho is a crucial part of that system. As a regista, Jorginho plays as the base for all the attacks, with great passing range and skill. The signing of Jorginho gives Chelsea one of the top three midfielders in the Premier League, which is not something to be sniffed at.

4. Stefan de Vrij to Internazionale
Stefan de Vrij was brilliant last year for Lazio, helping them reach a very respectable 5th in the league. He was a rock at the back for Lazio easily their best player along with Ciro Immobile. He will be a great signing for Inter, who will be a force to reckoned with this season.

Wi

3. William Carvalho to Real Betis
I have no idea how Real Betis managed to sign William Carvalho. Absolutely none. He is one of the best defensive midfielders in the world and Betis is a mid-table team in Spain. They have pulled off a coup and expect them to better last season’s 6th.

2. Leon Goretzka to Bayern Munich
Getting your main domestic rival’s best player on a free transfer is good business in anyone’s books. Leon Goretzka is an amazing talent that was by far Schalke’s best player last year so of course Bayern brought him. But to get him on a free? That’s better than even Bayern could have expected.

1. Alisson Becker to Liverpool
Liverpool have been begging for a goalkeeper for years. With first Simon Mignolet and then Loris Karius they haven’t had one for years. But Alisson was easily the best goalkeeper in Serie A last season and I don’t see why he can’t carry over that form to the Premier League. They did pay a lot for him but trust me, it will be worth it.

Image Credits:

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